By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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City Council members Tuesday night gave their OK to two agreements that describe how the city will work with the Port of Port Angeles and three private companies to study how contaminants, such as toxic heavy metals and other substances associated with industrial wood processing, are affecting the harbor’s plants and animals.
The agreements were approved 4-0, with Councilwoman Sissi Bruch recusing herself and Mayor Cherie Kidd and Councilman Max Mania absent.
Kidd had told city staff she was visiting family on the East Coast, while Mania sent an email to City Manager Dan McKeen last Thursday, March 28, saying he and his wife, Dale Holiday, would be in Bhutan.
Deputy Mayor Brad Collins said Bruch recused herself because she works for the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, which is an “interested party” to the cleanup, though not responsible for it.
The state Department of Ecology has determined that the port, the city, Georgia Pacific, Nippon Paper Industries USA and land management and timber company Merrill & Ring all bear some responsibility in cleaning up contaminants in the west Port Angeles Harbor sediment.
Ecology also named the state Department of Natural Resources as partially responsible, though DNR is not participating in these agreements.
The agreements, which Port of Port Angeles commissioners approved last week, lay out how the five parties will cooperate to develop a plan to sample and analyze sediment in the harbor, City Attorney Bill Bloor said.
The sampling plan, once approved by Ecology, ideally will allow sampling work to begin in June, Boor said.
“In order to meet our schedule, we need to be taking samples in June or July of this year,” Bloor said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“If we miss that opportunity, that will put us back one year.”
In a later interview, Bloor said sampling should start this summer to have a finalized remedial investigation and feasibility study by December 2014 that details how contaminants are affecting the harbor and how best to clean them up.
“We all want a plan that will result in the expedient cleanup of the harbor,” Bloor said.
The city is set to pay a fourth of a total $1.8 million contract with Seattle-based consulting firm Floyd Snyder, which will coordinate with three other firms to complete the sampling work.
Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s southwest region toxics cleanup manager, has said cleanup could begin as soon as 2015, though she has called that estimate “pretty optimistic.”
She said Wednesday that cleanup methods have not yet been determined.
Cap or dredge
Possible routes include capping the sediment with sand or other material, or dredging it from the harbor floor and disposing of it off-site.
If dredging were chosen, Lawson said, the remedial investigation and feasibility study would help determine what areas of the western harbor should be considered for sediment removal.
“We would hone in and try to define areas that need to be addressed,” Lawson said.
Any removed sediment most likely would need to be disposed of in a landfill of some type, though the nature of the contaminants found in it will decide where it ultimately ends up, Lawson explained.
“[Determining] the characteristics of disposal is a different process from evaluating whether or not it [needs to be cleaned up],” Lawson said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.